Page 134


Jason put the phone back on the hook, tempted to bolt from the crowded delicatessen. Instead, he walked calmly towards the door excusing himself through the rows of people lined up at the counter, his eyes on the glass front, scanning the crowds on the pavement. Outside he removed his overcoat, carrying it over his arm, and replaced the sunglasses with his tortoise-shells. Minor alterations, but he would not be where he was going long enough for them to be a major mistake. He hurried across the intersection towards Seventy-first Street

At the far corner he fell in with a group of pedestrians waiting for the light. He turned his, head to the left, his chin pressed down into his collar bone. The traffic was moving but the taxi was gone. It had been removed from the scene with surgical precision, a diseased, ugly organ cut from the body, the vital functions in normal process. It showed the precision of a master assassin, who knew precisely when to go in swiftly with a knife.

Bourne turned quickly, reversing his direction, and began walking south. He had to find a shop; he had to change his outer skin. The chameleon could not wait

Marie St Jacques was angry as she held her place across the room from Brigadier-General Irwin Arthur Crawford in the suite at the Pierre Hotel. 'You wouldn't listen!' she accused. 'None of you would listen. Have you any idea what you've done to him?"

'All too well,' replied the officer, the apology in his acknowledgment not his voice. 'I can only repeat what I've told you. We didn't know what to listen for. The difference between the appearance and the reality were beyond our understanding, obviously beyond his own. And if beyond his, why not ours?'

'He's been trying to reconcile the appearance and reality, as you call it, for six months! And all you could do was send out men to kill him! He tried to tell you. What kind of people are you?'

'Flawed, Miss St Jacques. Flawed but decent, I think. It's why I'm here. The time span's begun and I want to save him if I can, if we can. "

'God, you make me sick!' Marie stopped, she shook her head and continued softly. 'I'll do whatever you ask, you know that. Can you reach this Conklin?'

'I'm sure I can. I'll stand on the steps of that house until he has no choice but to reach me. He may not be our concern, however. '

'Carlos?'

'Perhaps others. "

'What do you mean?'

'I'll explain on the way. Our main concern now - our only concern now is to reach Delta. '

'Jason?'

'Yes. The man you call Jason Bourne. '

'And he's been one of you from the beginning,' said Marie. There were no slates to clean, no payments or pardons bargained for?'

'None. You'll be told everything in time, but this is not the time. I've made arrangements for you to be in an unmarked government car diagonally across from the house. We have binoculars for you; you know him better than anyone now. Perhaps you'll spot him. I pray to God you do. '

Marie went quickly to the cupboard and got her coat. 'He said one night that he was a chameleon. . . ' 'He remembered?' interrupted Crawford. "Remembered what?"

'Nothing. He had a talent for moving in and out of difficult situations without being seen. That's all I meant.

'Wait a minute. ' Marie approached the army man, her eyes suddenly riveted on his again. 'You say we have to reach Jason, but there's a better way. Let him come to us! To me. Put me on the steps of that house! He'll see me, get word to me!' 'Giving whoever's out there two targets?' 'You don't know your own man, General. I said "get word to me". He'll send someone, pay a man or a woman on the street to give me a message. I know him. He'll do it! It's the surest way!' 'I can't permit it. '

'Why not? You've done everything else stupidly 1 Blindly 1 Do one thing intelligently!'

'I can't It might even solve problems you're not aware of, but I can't do it. ' 'Give me a reason!'

'If Delta's right, if Carlos has come after him and is in the street, the risk is too great. Carlos knows you by sight. He'll kill you. '

'I'm willing to take that risk. '

'I'm not I'd like to think I'm speaking for my government when I say that* 'I don't think you are, frankly. " 'Leave it to others. May we go, please?"

'General Services Administration," intoned a disinterested switchboard operator. 'Mr J. Petrocelli, please,' said Alexander Conklin, his voice tense, his fingers wiping the sweat from his forehead as he stood by the window, the telephone in his hand. 'Quickly, please!'

'Everybody's in a hurry. . . ' The words were shorted out, replaced by the hum of a ring.

'Petrocelli, Reclamation Invoice Division. '

'What are you people doing!' exploded the C. I. A. man, the shock calculated, a weapon.

The pause was brief. 'Right now, listening to some nut ask a stupid question. '

'Well, listen further. My name's Conklin, Central Intelligence Agency, Four-Zero clearance. You do know what that means?'

'I haven't understood anything you people've said in the past ten years. *

'You'd better understand this. It took me damn near an hour, but I just reached the dispatcher for a removal company up here in New York, He said he had an invoice signed by you to remove all the furniture from a brownstone on Seventy-first Street. One-Forty, to be exact.

'Yeah, I remember that one. What about it?'

'Who gave you the order? That's our territory. We removed our equipment last week, but we did not - repeat, did not -request any further activity. '

'Just hold it,' said the bureaucrat. 'I saw that invoice. I mean I read it before I signed it; you guys make me curious. The order came directly from Langley on a priority sheet. '

'Who in Langley?'

'Give me a moment and I'll tell you. I've got a copy in my out file; it's here on my desk. ' The crackling of paper could be heard on the line. It stopped and Petrocelli returned. 'Here it is, Conklin. Take up your beef with your own people in Administrative Controls. "

"They didn't know what they were doing. Cancel the order. Call up the removal company and tell them to clear out! Now!'

'Blow smoke, spook. '

'What?'

'Get a written priority requisition on my desk before three o'clock this afternoon, and it may - just may - get processed tomorrow. Then we'll put everything back. '

'Put everything back?'

That's right You tell us to take it out we take it out You tell us to put it back, we put it back. We have methods and procedures to follow just like you. '

'That equipment - everything - was on loan It wasn't, isn't an agency operation. '

'Then why are you calling me? What have you got to do with it?'

'I don't have time to explain. lust get those people out of there. Call New York and get them out! Those are Four-Zero orders. '

'Make them a hundred and four and you can still blow smoke . . . Look, Conklin, we both know you can get what you want if I get what I need. Do it right. Make it legitimate. '

'I can't involve the agency 1'

'You're not going to involve me, either. ' "Those people have got to get out! I'm telling you. . . ' Conklin stopped, his eyes on the brownstone below and across the street, his thoughts suddenly paralysed. A tall man in a black overcoat had walked up the concrete steps; he turned and stood motionless in front of the open door. It was Crawford. What was he doing? What was he doing here? He had lost his senses; he was out of his mind! He was a stationary target; he could break the trap!



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
Source: www.StudyNovels.com